First stages of gambling reform a step closer – Hargey

Date published: 14 February 2022

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey will today take gambling reforms through the Consideration Stage of the legislative process.

First stages of gambling reform a step closer – Hargey
First stages of gambling reform a step closer – Hargey

The Minister introduced the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Amendment) Bill as a first phase in wider reform, saying the Bill should be regarded as the start of reform, not the end.

Minister Hargey said:

“Overhauling our gambling legislation is something that I believe is very important and I was determined to deliver change during my time as Communities Minister.  This Bill is proposing the first substantial changes to gambling law here in nearly 40 years and I am pleased I have been able to get it to this stage. It is the first stage of reform.

“I also wanted to use the opportunity this Bill provides to support the efforts of local charities, sports clubs and other voluntary groups to raise more money for good causes in our community.”

The Bill will have its Consideration Stage today where the Assembly will have an opportunity to vote on amendments to the Bill which was introduced by the Minister on 27 September last year.

This Bill will deliver tangible changes in around 14 key areas of premises-based gambling, including improving protection for children and young people and the creation of enabling powers to allow for industry Codes of Practice to be introduced alongside an industry levy.  The levy, in particular, opens up the possibility of more funding in the future to help those affected by, or at risk of, gambling related harm.

The Minister was keen to emphasise that she saw this Bill as marking a beginning of much needed wider reforms.     

The Minister continued:

“In my view, the current Bill should be regarded as a start, not as an end.  When I originally announced my plans to reform our gambling laws last May, I proposed a two-phased approach. This Bill represents the first of those two phases. 

“Much more work will need to be done in the next phase.”

More detail on the Bill, including the list of proposed amendments, is available at: NI Assembly

Notes to editors: 

1. Amongst other issues the Bill will:-

  • remove the current £1 price limit on the sale of societies lottery tickets and increase the limit to a maximum of £100;
  • set a simpler, flat 20% limit on the amount of the proceeds of a lottery that may be appropriated for expenses;
  • create new offences in relation to allowing children to play gaming machines;
  • create powers to impose a statutory levy on gambling operators;
  • establish a mandatory code of practice for those holding gambling licenses; 
  • broaden the definition of cheating to include attempted cheating;
  • make gambling contracts enforceable in law;
  • remove some of the restrictions on promotional prize competitions; and
  • permit Bookmakers and Bingo clubs to open on Sundays and Good Friday.

2. The next stage of the Bill is its Further Consideration Stage in the Assembly on 28 February 2022.  Following this, the Bill will have a Final Stage before receiving Royal Assent.  It is expected the majority of the provisions in the Bill, when finalised, will become law as soon as Royal Assent is received.

3. Consumers here who gamble online have some protections through the provisions of the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014 which makes it an offence to advertise gambling products here unless the operator holds a licence from the Gambling Commission in England.

4. Media enquiries to DFC Press Office on email at Press Office

5. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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